Cedar River Watershed Education Center is dedicated on October 2, 2001.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 10/03/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3594
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On October 2, 2001, the Cedar River Watershed Education Center is dedicated at the entrance to the watershed overlooking Rattlesnake Lake. The $6.8 million education center is intended to serve 30,000 school children annually as well as other visitors interested in watershed education and environmental stewardship.

Center of Attention

Funding for the Center came from the City of Seattle and the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed (FCRW), a private, non-profit organization incorporated in 1996 and dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the watershed. At the time of the dedication, FCRW had raised $1 million in private donations with a goal of raising another $1 million.  

At the time of the dedication, the center complex consisted of five buildings linked by covered walkways with roofs of sod: an interpretive hall, learning laboratory, conference center, library and the Forest Court, featuring native plants and a flowing stream.

Water Drums and Root Balls  

Local artist Dan Corson provided special touches to the center. In the Forest Court, Corson arranged a ring of drums which sound when hit by rain. The Water Drum heads are slanted so the runoff then waters the plants.  

On rainless days, calibrated water droplets play on the drumheads via a computerized irrigation system. Thin pipes hidden in the foliage send droplets to each drum in syncopation, and can be programmed to play a variety of international rhythms.  

Corson also created hanging sculptures made out of root balls dug from the watershed. The clusters were cleaned and fumigated, then interlaced with strands of neon that mimic the flow of water.

Speakers and Friends  

More than 100 people attended the dedication under the cover of a clear blue sky. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell (1937-2014) was the main speaker at the event, and other speakers included Seattle City Council President Margaret Pageler, FCRW President Yvette Maestas, Seattle Public Utilities Director Diana Gale, and Jim Ellis, co-founder of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. Snoqualmie Tribal Council Member Ray Mullen and other members of the tribe gave welcoming invocations.

Architecture and landscaping for the Cedar River Watershed Education Center were created through Seattle-based Jones and Jones Architects.

Education Center Features 

As of 2014, the Cedar River Watershed Education Center included the following features:  

  • The Welcome Room and Exhibit Hall welcomes visitors to the Cedar River Watershed with a central stone fireplace, and a giant tree root system etched across the floor. It is a place for hands-on environmental learning. Interactive exhibits allow students and visitors to be a part of the water cycle and learn about watershed protection and water conservation. A host of rich exhibits engage visitors in the Cedar River Watershed’s human history and the connections between plants and animals and water.
  • The Loon and Lichen Learning Labs give school groups the opportunity to explore the science of the watersheds. Students study water samples, bugs, and plants under microscopes and conduct explorations in the Rattlesnake Lake watershed. ...
  • The Heritage Research Library is home to 9,400 years of artifacts, documents, maps, and photographs of the Watershed. It also provides the casual visitor and serious researchers alike with original materials from the Watershed's past and current research projects and activities. ...
  • The Auditorium provides a perfect gathering place for school and organized groups. ...
  • The Forest Court with its trees, shrubs, native plants, a stream and Water Drum art, forms the Center's heart. The Forest Court is a quiet place of beauty, a spot from which a visitor can watch birds, listen to frogs and witness mist rising off the lake ("Education Center Features").


Information provided by Seattle Public Utilities and the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed; "Education Center Features," Seattle Public Utilities website accessed December 2, 2014 (http://www.seattle.gov/util/EnvironmentConservation/OurWatersheds/CedarRiver Watershed/CedarRiverEducationCenter/Features/index.htm).
Note: This essay was updated on December 2, 2014.

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